Massachusetts Sports Betting Could Help Small Businesses Hurt by Pandemic, Say Lawmakers

By | March 1, 2021

A bill that would authorize sports betting at Massachusetts bars, restaurants, and other small businesses made its way last week to the state legislature. Sen. Adam Gomez’s (D-Hampden) legislation is one of several sports betting bills now doing the rounds in Boston, including one from Gov. Charlie Baker.

Massachusetts sports betting
Massachusetts sports betting should be about “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to sponsor State Sen. Adam Gomez (pictured). (Image: WAMC)

Unlike some of its neighbors, Massachusetts opted not to rush into sports betting immediately after the US Supreme Court’s rejection of federal sports betting prohibition laws. Despite a desire to protect its recently established casino market from new competition, the state preferred to take a considered approach to sports betting.

Now it’s playing catch up, while losing potential casino and tax revenue to Rhode Island and New York. And with Connecticut also in the legalization race, there is a growing appetite among Massachusetts lawmakers to get the job done during this legislative session.

In January, sports betting was removed from the state’s $627 million economic development bill over fears it might hinder vital COVID-19 relief elements in the legislation.

 

Mass. Market

For Gomez and his cosponsor Rep. Orlando Ramos, sports betting should not be monopolized by the state’s two casinos, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, and slots single parlor, Plainridge Park. He’s shooting for an inclusive market that could offer a boost to small businesses trying to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Considering all of the challenges that bars and restaurants and other small businesses have been going through with this pandemic, it was important to me that they were included in this bill,” Ramos told MassLive.

“I think we also have to make sure that minority-owned businesses have an opportunity to succeed in this new industry, which is why we included explicit language for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” he added.

Distressed Restaurants

The bill would also establish the Distressed Restaurant Fund, which would be financed by revenues from Massachusetts sports betting. The fund would provide financial assistance to restaurants in the state that have been impacted by COVID-19.

“For me, it became a no-brainer – why shouldn’t an adult who is patronizing a local sports restaurant have the opportunity to bet $25 legally and safely on the Celtics,” Gomez said.

“We want to ensure that sports wagering can occur fairly and legally where every business interested can have a seat at the table,” he added. “This legislation will increase our state’s competitiveness and will capture revenues that are currently being enjoyed by our neighboring states where sports betting has been legalized.”

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